Ingrid Chiemi Schroffner did not mean to publish a collection of songs. When she started to work from home in March 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Schroffner said, she found herself with a lot of free time in the mornings.
“I was actually able to start playing guitar every day, and it increased my speed in writing songs, which I’ve written periodically for a long time,” Schroffner said. “Because everybody was stuck at home I started just sharing my songs with my family, and I would put them on SoundCloud.”
After Schroffner wrote four complete albums, she said her sister-in-law, Leah Salow, suggested she compile them into a book alongside artwork and photography.
“My sister-in-law said ‘I love your voice, don’t get me wrong, but I really like your lyrics,’” Schroffner said.
On Feb. 1, Schroffner released her book, “Karma Bank to Following By Listening” — the title references the first and last album in the book — composed of five albums with 50 songs accompanied by photographs and artwork from Schroffner, her friends, and family.
“I love the way she puts words together,” Salow said. “She writes these beautiful lyrics.”
Schroffner said she intentionally paired the art to add meaning to her songs. Salow, who is a veterinarian in Maine and a painter for the past 20 years, contributed several paintings to the book, including a piece of her child doing a handstand on the beach that Schroffner paired with the song titled “Mental Postcards Appearing.”
“That’s my favorite piece because she used my kid as inspiration,” Salow said. “It is just so joyful.”
Schroffner said she pulls inspiration reflecting on her own life and the experiences of those around her.
“I go for a run every morning around Crystal Lake in Newton, and these themes come into my psyche and I integrate them with what I’m experiencing,” Schroffner said.
Schroffner has been a Newton resident since 2001 and has been a practicing attorney for over 25 years. She said she’s been a musician her whole life, and first performed an original song, titled “Steps to Find,” at her 1988 high school graduation ceremony.
“Writing songs is a way that I process things,” Schroffner said. “It’s how I make sense of the world, and I’ve written songs for a really long time.”
Schroffner said the book was a “labor of love” and decided she wanted to use the book to help others. She said she decided to give all of the proceeds of the book to Asian Community Development Corporation, a Boston-based nonprofit working to develop and manage affordable housing.
“ACDC is honored and grateful that Ingrid donated proceeds from her songbook to support our work,” Christine Nguyen, the group’s director of development and communications, wrote in an e-mail.
Nguyen wrote the proceeds of Schroffner’s book will go to support Asian development corporation’s recent projects, such as their financial literacy and first time homebuyers workshops.
Schroffner said she worked closely with the affordable housing group when she was the president of Asian American Lawyers Association of Massachusetts from 2006 to 2008 and helped fundraise.
Since the release of her book, Schroffner said, she is continuing to write music. She said she believes music can help connect to her community, and this experience has taught her that people are “natural collaborators.”
“I hope that people will find positivity in each one of these songs,” Schroffner said. “Even though they’re not all necessarily happy, they still have a positive inflection because of the sharing that created these songs.”
Lauren Rowlands can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.